Mount Crested Butte, Colorado

Seventy nine days ago, I was still confused about what was happening in my life.  You never know what’s really happening to you — however, you are compelled to do things, and when you do them, those decisions put you wherever you are.

So, here I am — an intern for six months at Community Rebuilds in Gunnison, Colorado along with ten to twelve other bright souls looking to change the landscape and our way of life by building (more) sustainably.  We will be constructing a three story straw bale insulated duplex in Mount Crested Butte for two fantastic folks who could really use a nice place to live.  Regenerative architecture and agriculture developments are occurring in my life.  This is great news.  This is a great change.

How did I get here?

I had been looking for a way to learn about straw bale building and stumbled upon the Community Rebuilds internship.  Not being a college student myself, I figured that I either wouldn’t get accepted, or wouldn’t fit in with the curriculum when I did.

And then I got accepted.

Rikki, the program manager at CR called me for a Skype interview while I was driving.  I pulled over, talked with Rikki, and the rest of my life began.  I made it.  I also talked with Kyle, our leader / apprentice CR manager / registered architect / all around great guy, and felt confident in my decision of having applied.  I knew that my life was going to change.

The days counted down until I was to leave for Gunnison.  I didn’t know what I was going to do — I just knew that I was going to have to do it.  I worked for nearly two months at a restaurant to save enough funds to get to Gunnison, and still have some money once I got there.

The day arrived.  I left California on May 6th.  The drive was great, and I had even lined up a job interview at a local restaurant for the day of my arrival in Crested Butte.  Driving up the mountain, I could immediately feel the altitude affect my head, a pressure that I had never felt before.  I’ve never been above 5,000 ft, and just Gunnison itself is 7,000.  Crested Butte is over 9,000.  The pressure was on.  But everyone looked wonderful, and the well designed little resort town gave me many ideas about building my own small communities of houses in the future.

The houses of Crested Butte, nestled against a hillside.

The houses of Crested Butte, nestled against a hillside.

The town itself was enough to make me feel excited – let alone the fact that I would soon be part of a life changing and potentially game changing learning experience regarding sustainable housing, there were such beautiful sights to see in the town of Crested Butte.  There were metal sculptures all over the place, which had been done by a local artist.  My interview went well, and I finally came down the mountain to rest at the CR intern house.

Beautiful metal art cultures in Crested Butte, like this Eagle pizza oven and vehicular bench.

Beautiful metal art cultures in Crested Butte, like this Eagle pizza oven and vehicular bench.

Gunnison itself is a marvelous town as well.  Quaint, collegiate, and hilly with a gentle breeze – nearly everything I could ever want.  Stopping at the park in front of our student house, I noticed some amazing wood carvings.  I was reminded again of where I wanted to go with my career — not just building houses, but building sustainable and functional works of art, complete with lovely wood detailing.  Then, I saw the quote from John W. Gunnison, who founded the town in 1853:

“If I get through it, it will be a triumph — but I must try at least, and try I shall.”

Captain John W. Gunnison.

Captain John W. Gunnison.

I agreed with his sentiment.

I got to the CR student house a couple of days early.  There were three other interns already at the house — Blaise, who is all around fun and generally the life of the party — and Sarah and Mike, a wonderful couple with great permaculture experience, and ambition to do fun things the rest of us haven’t gotten around to doing, like making beer, kombucha, and soaps.

Other interns slowly poured in, and eventually we were all housed together, working out who got which room, who was going to cook dinner that night, and generally having a jovial time.  We hiked the Hartman Rocks.  We walked.  We laughed.  We discussed serious issues.  We talked about our aspirations.


Beautiful Interns


All the beautiful interns

We finally met the contractor of Straw and Timber Craftsmen, Dusty, who would be managing our project in Crested Butte.  Dusty was a wealth of information regarding building, but also sustainable philosophy.  He treated us to a presentation in his home where he introduced us to the concepts regarding building sustainably that we would need to succeed.  Dusty brought out some great points in his presentation, in addition to showing us how houses could be made incrementally better through retrofitting and general biomimicry – just a natural plaster of a drywall wall makes all the difference in the world.  Its something about the feeling of the earth,  even if the house isn’t made completely out of dirt.

We went to visit the site, and saw the rough foundation diggings.  There was too much water for the foundation crew to pour the pad, so we had to wait for a while before we could get started.  We found out that day that we would be going to Moab for a week to work on the plaster of another house before we could get started building this one.  The site itself was beautiful — breathtaking even.  The sight of the mountains in the background made me think of how happy the residents of our house would be, looking out at those beautiful snow capped mountains every morning.


The view from the build site

From the build site, we went to two other straw bale buildings that Dusty had built over the last few years.  The views from these houses were amazing as well, as they were all nestled in the Crested Butte valley.  The houses all had beautiful wood detailing, and the interior finish of the bales was great.  The houses really did feel more solid and perhaps even more dry than traditional homes, not to mention the incredible details of earthen plaster and floors.  We visited one house which was still under construction, which was eye opening to see the inside of the walls before they got plastered.   The next house that we saw was finished, and was mesmerizing to sit in.  The feeling of home was apparent immediately, and the contrast to modern housing with carpet and dry walls was unbearable.  I never want d to set foot in a traditional house again.  All houses should have earthen floors.

Inside the unfinished straw two story straw bale home in Crested Butte.

Inside the two story straw bale home in Crested Butte.

The following day after our straw bale tour, we went on a hike to the Dillon Pinnacles outside Gunnison.  Intern Laura took incredible pictures of our excursion, which seemed to really solidify our expedition. We were going to be getting started next week — driving to Moab for a whole week to begin plastering the existing house while our foundation issues in Crested Butte were being solved.  The hike was great, and the view was unforgettable.

All our interns — Dan, myself, Stacy, Jerry, Beatrice, Sarah, Mike, Apprentice Kyle, Apprentice Jessica, and Laura

All our interns — Dan, myself, Stacey, Jerry, Beatrice, Sarah, Mike, Apprentice Kyle, Apprentice Jessica, and Laura

All our happy interns!

All our happy interns!

Jessica and I discuss life on the rocks.

Jessica and I discuss life on the rocks.

More happy interns

More happy interns

The best picture ever taken of me

The best picture ever taken of me

We spent part of this first week building furniture for our home, which was a great project for everyone to learn general carpentry.  Unfortunately, I missed pictures of all the neat things we were building, so I will add a link to this post so that you can all see the small little furniture that we built.

Great fun was had in the making of the furniture.

Tomorrow, we leave for Moab.  I’m excited.  We all are.  Coming to CR was the best thing that I’ve done so far in my life.  It’s changed my perspective about life, not just regarding building or sustainability, but about having a similar vision with other people in my peer group, and the fact that we are all working together, supporting each other to achieve it.  We feed each other, laugh with one another, discuss decisions democratically, and work together wonderfully to maintain cohesion in our household.  Communalism has had a much greater effect on me than I had anticipated — I see that the future really can be made of people who want to take care of each other and the planet.  Hopefully we can all grow and build each other sweet straw bale houses as well — maybe we can build them for the whole world.  Only time will tell.

For now, here’s a farewell until tomorrow — let the plastering commence.


Erik Hans Rasmussen – Mount Crested Butte Intern 2016


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